Roughly 15 million people a year are victims of identity theft, and while we have many systems in place to help prevent and resolve instances of identity theft, consumers should still take the steps necessary to protect their personal information. Here are six, easy-to-follow tips that can help you protect yourself and your family from identity theft and fraud.
Use Strong Passwords
When signing up for a social media site, an online store, a new email address, or anything else that requires you to input a username and password, make sure you choose a strong password.
There are some simple dos and don’ts you can use when creating a password.
- Use multiple numbers, capital letter, and symbols.
- Make your password 8 characters or longer.
- Use different passwords for different sites.
- Memorize it so you don’t have to write it down.
- Use the same password across multiple websites.
- Use adjacent key passwords, such as 123456 or QWERTY.
- Use your name.
- Use personal details in your password.
Use Your Own Computer
When making an online purchase or using online banking services, always use your own computer. Other computers—especially ones in public places—could be unknowingly compromised and could leave your information vulnerable. Also, if you’re using your laptop in a public place, make sure you’re on a secure WiFi network.
Bottom line, unless you’re in an absolute emergency, wait until you get home to handle any financial or personal online business.
Log Out of Everything
No matter where you are, or what device you’re using, be sure to log out completely when you’re finished handling any financial business online. Simply closing a browser doesn’t always log you out, which can leave your information vulnerable.
Be Careful With Downloads
Truthfully, downloading content to your computer is a relatively safe practice these days, and a lot the media we consumer is done through downloading. However, you should always make sure whatever you’re downloading comes from a trusted, secure site.
Never download anything from an email address you don’t recognize, and avoid “pirating” free movies, music, and other media. Not only is it illegal, it puts you at a major risk for viruses, spyware, and theft.
Check for Secure Sites
Before you log on or sign up for anything, especially if the site deals with financial information, make sure the site is secure. A secure site simply means that your connection to the website is private.
There are a few ways you can be sure you’re using a secure site. For one, secure URLs begin with “https” instead of just “http.” You’ll also notice a small padlock icon in the address bar when you’re using a secure site.
Shred Physical Documents or Keep Them Locked Away
Just because you’re not online doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. Bank statements, bills, credit card statements, or anything else that has personal or financial information on it should be shredded or destroyed.
Any important documents that can’t be destroyed should be locked away. Rather than relying on a desk drawer or a filing cabinet, keep important personal information—such as your social security card, passport, etc.—in a locked, fire proof safe.